Rights group criticizes Sri Lanka court-martial of defeated opposition candidate

[JURIST] The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) [official website] on Thursday criticized [press release] Sri Lanka's plans to court-martial defeated opposition presidential candidate and former general Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile]. The Sri Lankan Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) announced [press release] Monday that Fonseka was arrested [JURIST report] "in connection with certain fraudulent acts and other military offences." According to AHRC:


The case is being pursued in military courts, thus avoiding the country's ordinary courts and depriving him of due process. This is also depriving the public of information on his case. ... The overall situation created under these circumstances is one of intimidation and political tension. The Secretary General of the United Nations has made a request to avoid further tensions in the country. However, there does not seem to be any positive response on the part of the government to this request.

AHRC called for the "due process of law [to] prevail" and for "the authority of the country's ordinary courts [to] be preserved."

On Tuesday, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website, in Sinhala] dissolved [JURIST report] Parliament [official website] and called for early parliamentary elections. It is believed that Rajapaksa is trying to harness momentum from the presidential election in January, in which he was re-elected, to gain more seats in parliament for his political party, Freedom Alliance. Last week, 37 people, most of them military officers, were arrested in connection to an alleged assassination attempt against Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled last week that Rajapaksa's second term [JURIST report] will begin in November. The apparent victor in January's elections, Rajapaksa defeated Fonseka by an official margin of 18 points, winning re-election to a second term in office. Fonseka has disputed [Al Jazeera report] the results, saying violence and vote-counting irregularities invalidated the outcome.


 

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